Spousal Support in a Divorce


Spousal Support in a Divorce

When it comes to divorce, there are two primary types of support that may apply:

  • child support (financial support for minor/dependent children)
  • spousal support (also referred to as divorce alimony)

Spousal support is support intended to provide financial assistance to a spouse during and after divorce. As with child support, states have the ability to establish their guidelines for determining alimony and amounts, thus it will vary from state to state.

Spousal support laws

In general, spousal support will either be short or long term and may be temporary, rehabilitative or reimbursement.

Temporary support orders are those often experienced first as they are designed to provide financial support during the course of the divorce process. This may be subject to an agreement or may be ordered immediately at the time the parties separate.

When it comes to the duration (period of time) that spousal support will be required, courts tend to have a tremendous amount of discretion. Thus, the amount and period of time the support will be required can vary greatly. Some courts may follow a pattern of awarding one half the time of the marriage, whereas some states may limit the support to three years or the length of the marriage.

When the period of time is limited to a few years (often associated with short-term marriages), this is commonly referred to as short-term support. This support is also often referred to as rehabilitative support, as it is designed to provide support while the spouse obtains the skills and training necessary to enter (or reenter) the workforce.

For marriages that lasted extended periods of time (often in excess of ten years), long-term support may be required. Some states refer to this as permanent support, although there are events that can result in the support being terminated.

When a court determines that one spouse sacrificed their career or education during the marriage to support the other spouse (especially one who was training for a high earning career) and the divorce occurs before they have the opportunity to share in the benefits associated with their spouse’s new career, the court may award reimbursement support. In other words, support to balance what was lost during the marriage. For more details, speak with your divorce attorneys. 

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